BIRDS OF A FEATHER SOMETIMES FLOCK TOGETHER – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s February Expressions #11


As a very birdie lady, I have this to say about that.

Cardinal (boy)

Lady Cardinal

Some birds — like finches — flock together. The Goldfinches show up in bunches, often more than a dozen at a time and they don’t mind taking in the House and Purple Finches who also live in the woods with them. They apparently don’t care whether you are red, raspberry, or bright yellow.

Goldfinches – just beginning to change to their breeding feathers.

Goldfinch and flying Titmouse

On the other hand, while the Cardinal often shows up with his mate, he will not tolerate the presence of another male Cardinal in his “patch” of woods. If they meet, they go at it like World War 1 aces, whirling and attacking each other in the air. It’s quite a thing to see.

Two bluebirds

Two more Goldfinches

The Hairy Woodpecker doesn’t like anything or anyone but will tolerate his mate if she doesn’t get in his way. The Red-Bellied Woodpecker will tolerate other birds nearby … as long as they don’t poach on his piece of feeder. The Tufted Titmouses show up in groups, but not flocks and all the other birds are perfectly okay with them. Ditto the Nuthatches. Bluebirds only show up in groups (protection?).

In the watery world of fowl, Canada Geese and Swans hate each other. Meanwhile, Herons will eat the eggs of any other fowl if they can find the nests.

But all of these fighting birds are happy to hang around with ducks. No other bird has a problem with ducks and when the ducks hang out, they don’t care what kind of duck you are. Whatever feathers you wear are fine with all the ducks.

ANGRY BIRDS, WINTRY LIGHT – Marilyn Armstrong

Angry birds, wintry light

Hairy Woodpeckers are the larger of two similar-looking woodpeckers. They aren’t actually related, but somehow, the Downy has copied the feathering and coloration of the Hairy Woodpecker, probably because the Hairy has a notoriously bad temper. The Downy has an equally bad temper, but he’s much smaller. By copying the bigger bird, on a quick look, they look the same.

It’s hard to see the difference unless they are near enough to one another to see the size difference which, despite them often sharing the same piece of forest, they rarely do.

Angry bird 1

Angry bird 2

Angry bird 3

Angry bird 4

Angry bird 5

Angry bird 6

Today I got lucky and for a few seconds (I didn’t get a picture, but I almost got a picture)  they shared the opposite sides of the big feeder. Suddenly, it was easy to tell the difference. The Hairy is obviously bigger. Bigger body, longer beak. They only shared space for a few seconds, then the Downy decided it was time to move on. The Hairy hung around long enough for me to get some pictures and for once, I was sure I knew which bird I was photographing.

Is it me or does this look like one of the original angry birds? Hairy Woodpeckers have a notoriously bad temper. They are permanently in a bad mood. I think it’s because they spend their entire lives banging their head against hardwood trees.

ALL ABOUT A DOWNY WOODPECKER AND HER NUTHATCH LUNCHMATE – Marilyn Armstrong

I had a really big set of photos from last week. I’d processed maybe 10 of them, then I took some more and worked on them. But I knew there were a bunch of pictures in there with which I’d not done anything. I’d shot these pictures quickly and taken a long sequence of a lovely lady Downy Woodpecker sharing the feeder alone or with a Nuthatch.

Last night, I put a bunch of them together. This is a lady Downy because she doesn’t have a red patch on her head.

Downy and Nuthatch

Just hanging out

Seedeaters!

Very plump or full of eggs?

It’s good to keep them al so well-fed.

BIRDS DU JOUR AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

I have good days and bad ones for bird photography. Some days, the birds decide I’m okay, so I get pictures. Other days, they decide my camera is a gun and I’m going to shoot them. The last couple of days have been pretty good. Also, I improved the food. The same food I used to feed them. There is no high-quality cheap birdseed. Sometimes you get lucky (there’s a sale somewhere), but usually, it costs a lot more than seems reasonable.

Nuthatch and Frog

This picture of the Nuthatch and the Frog was a bit dark, but not out of focus. I thought it would look good in monochrome. Then I added a bit of graphic treatment to brighten it up. I really like the way it came out!

Vertical Goldfinch

Goldfinch in the air and another on the feeder

Nuthatch and Downy Woodpecker sharing a bit of lunch

Freefall for a Goldfinch. These little birds like to play and do some exciting, fun flying

Fluttering Goldfinches and a Rose-breasted Titmouse

Of all of the birds, the most fun to watch are the little birds: the Chickadees and various finches. They don’t take off from the feeder. They fall off, only opening their wings just before they hit the ground. They also fall out of the trees and are inches from crashing when they finally open their wings. Owen says they used to roll off his barn roof and fall until right before they hit the ground.

Nuthatch and Downy Woodpecker

It can’t be accidental, either. They obviously have fun flying, so when they aren’t raiding a feeder, they like freefalling from trees and railings. Do they have to dare each other? Are there prizes for those who get closest to the ground?

Photobombing woodpecker?

The previous picture was funny. There were two Goldfinches on the finch feeder, but this nosy Downy Woodpecker wanted to see if maybe there was something delicious for her to eat. Mind you the holes in this feeder are too small for a bird of her size. I’m pretty sure it’s a girl because she has no red patch on her head and she also looks like she’s carrying around a few eggs.

Portrait of a hungry Goldfinch

BIRDS CAN BE SQUARE TOO #10 – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

BACKYARD BIRDIES IN WILD ABSTRACTION (AND THE NUMBER ISN’T IN ORDER, EITHER)

It was a sunny afternoon and my camera was ready. I was ready. Were the birds ready? That is always the question. As for light, see that hint of golden sun on the trees and the birds? That is the reflection of the late afternoon winter sun. Photography is all about light.

I take pictures every day if there are active birds on the feeders. It’s a timing issue and I have to hope it isn’t the exact same group of birds that seem to actually live on the feeders. When I see enough interesting birds or types of birds, I try sneaking up on them and hope they won’t hide or fly away. I think they are laughing at me as they fly into the woods.

Flying: the bird in front is a Tufted Titmouse and the bird in the back is a woodpecker, either a downy or a hairy.

Last week, I dumped the flat feeder and the very damaged wire feeder. I got a smaller feeder with smooth sides and a rim for birds to hold onto. It is designed for smaller birds. I already owned a finch feeder, but I’d never bought food for it. I had Owen put up a third hook and invested in a small bag of finch food.

A Goldfinch on the finch feeder

It took about 72 hours for the birds to discover the new feeders. For a few days, there were almost no birds. On Sunday, I woke up and looked at the feeders and they were empty. I don’t mean that they needed filling. They were 100% empty, down to the last seed.

Woodpecker and Titmouse

I filled everything up and waited. The Goldfinches are back and so are the woodpeckers. The Cardinals have come home, though they refuse to sit still while I take their picture. I think they should show some appreciation, but they aren’t here as my friends. They just want to eat. I still think they could at least let me take pictures. Show me a little bit of gratitude.

Hairy Woodpecker

They hide on the opposite side of the feeders where I can’t see them. I have to wait for them to decide to ignore me and some days, they manage to elude me until I get tired and give up.

A beautiful Tufted Titmouse … and a surprisingly big oneToday I decided to exhume the SD card from the OMD and see what I had collected. I decided to play around with this batch. Others are less abstract. I admit it. Sometimes, I just want to play with pictures.

MORE WINTER BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

I see a lot more birds than I am able to photograph. I see them, but when I lift the camera up, they either hide or fly up into the tree. They obviously can see me through the glass doors. They don’t seem to mind me standing there and watching them, but as soon as I pick up the camera, about half of them disappear in a matter of seconds.

Tufted Titmouse

Junco and a Rose-Breasted Nuthatch

Nuthatch and incoming — but not sure what! Going by color, I think it’s a bluebird.

Downy Woodpecker

A Downy Woodpeckerwithout a red patch is a lady. Why does she always look like she’s got a mad on?

She really looks like she’s spent too many hours trying to talk to customer service

Titmouse

Another Titmouse

A Titmouse and a Flying Chickadee

Cardinal in full regalia

Goldfinch and Chickadee

Two bluebirds

I always wonder why some birds show up in a bunch one day, but I don’t see them again for a week or two. They are probably all there while I’m here, on the computer.

I’m finding it weird that it’s nearly Christmas. I’m not ready for another year. I have not yet recovered from this one. Or the one before this one. Actually, I haven’t been right in the head since 2016.

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas! Or whatever you celebrate or even if you don’t celebrate anything. Enjoy the days off or overtime or whatever. Hey, Garry and I got our raises from Social Security. They said it was to “keep up with inflation.”

Are you ready?

I’m getting an EXTRA $18 every month! And Garry is getting an ADDITIONAL $21 every month. Wowee zowee! I hope you’re impressed. It’s the first raise in a couple of years, so they had to make it huge!

A BIG DAY FOR BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

It snowed last night. We had no idea how much we’d get because one minute they’d say “just a dusting” and the next they’d say “maybe five or six inches” and finally someone would admit they didn’t know, but something was going to happen.

I sort of hoped nothing would happen, but it’s and early winter, so I was pretty sure we’d have snow. I was hoping it wasn’t going to be a HUGE amount of snow, but that’s not coming till next week.

Flying!

When I woke this morning, it had definitely snowed and every bird in the woods was diving on the feeders. It was earlier than I usually get up, but the birds were enticing. When it’s cold and snowy, they forget to hide from me. They just want food and more food. I believe they eat a great deal when it’s cold and that’s how they survive the weather.

Taking off

I took a few pictures. More than a few. I burned through a whole battery and had to insert a new one. Usually, the birds leave while I’m changing batteries. This time, though, they were too hungry to go anywhere.

A Titmouse and a Flying Chickadee

So I got some great shots of Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, Mr. and Mrs. Downy Woodpecker, Tufted Titmice, Chickadees, Carolina Wrens and Chipping Sparrows … among others. And a squirrel who snuck in for a snack. For once, I think the overwhelming flock of birds won the day and he left pretty quickly.

Getting wings ready to fly

But Garry said the squirrels were chowing down all morning, so maybe they finally got tired and went home for a nap.

Woodpecker and Titmouse

THE JUNCOS ARE BACK – Marilyn Armstrong

You know it’s winter when the Juncos appear. This year, they showed up in force. Maybe a dozen of them, though it could be more since they do all look alike. I’ve seen a dozen of them on the deck at one time. They will eat from the feeder, but they will also walk around the deck and eat from the ground, too. They are also very amusing flyers. Like the Chickadees, they will just drop off the feeder and not open their wings until they are just an inch from the ground. I think they enjoy flying just because they have wings.

If I were a bird, I’d seriously consider being either a Chickadee or a Junco. They are the fun flyers of the group.

We’ve also seen a lot of the Cardinals — boys and girls — and various configurations of woodpeckers. The Cardinals will hang out on the feeders, but the moment I show up with the camera, they vanish. The blink of an eye and they are gone.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker and a Junco

The woodpeckers are such a tease. They go to the opposite side of the feeder where I can’t get a picture. Sometimes I’ll see a piece of wing or the top of their heads, but usually not the whole bird. I got one really nice shot of one today with a Junco enjoying seed on a different part of the feeder.

Junco on feeder with seed

Another Junco

And this one, framed

MORE BIRDS OF VARIOUS FEATHERS – Marilyn Armstrong

I almost have my graphic software working again. There are also a few more downloads waiting for me to say “yes.” Right now, I’m in a very “no” kind of mood. Maybe Monday I’ll be ready to redo this whole mess again. Or maybe Tuesday.

Meanwhile, though I still have some fun pictures from yesterday’s dinner dervish by the feeders. And I still don’t know what those big grey birds are. They aren’t showing up in my bird book. And there’s a big white one that looks like a Tufted Titmouse, but he’s twice their size and he’s almost entirely white except for some slashes of black on his wings.

And one really fat white bird!

Name that bird!

Birds in sunlight

Handsome Chickadee

Sharing dinner

Tufted Titmouse (I think) about to take flight

And no doubt more tomorrow. As the weather gets colder, the birds get more audacious about feeding!

DINNERTIME AT THE FEEDERS – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s always a bit chaotic at dinner time which is right before sunset. But today, it was a birdie riot. Also, I want to mention that you should NEVER EVER let them download updates to your graphics software at 10:30 at night. I’ll get this sorted out, but it’s 2 hours later and nothing is working as it did before I stupidly let them download. I will never learn. I click and THEN I think.

Meanwhile, though, I got a few nifty pictures of the birds doing their dinner swirly thing. All the birds come to the feeder at about 4 o’clock and it’s just a riot.

It was indeed quite a get-together this evening!

Sharing? That never happens!

You’ve got to love that diving Chickadee!

Looks like Thanksgiving at the in-laws

And then, one flew away — but more will come!

Hunger beats out arguments!

There were a couple of Cardinals I missed, and two really fat doves and a few Blue Jays … and a few I still don’t recognize. But the crowd definitely made it to dinner tonight. Maybe tomorrow I can get my software working again!!

PORTRAIT OF A RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER – Marilyn Armstrong

After the Blue Jay left, the Woodpecker hung around to enjoy a feed at the flat feeder. Woodpeckers aren’t picky and are just as happy eating from the hanging feeder.

I think they get to eat faster on the flat feeder.

For many critters, faster is better. Fewer interruption by other winged locals. I got some really good pictures of this guy.

This first one really shows how big and sharp that beak is. Add to that, his skull is twice as thick as other birds and he is very strong for his size. Other birds don’t want to mess with woodpeckers.

Two big Blue Jays tried to confront him today. For about 2 seconds and then they changed their minds and flew up into the trees. They were bigger, but one peck from this little guy’s beak and they would be goners.

A good look at the beak and head. This is one small, but tough bird!

Fabulous profile but messy eater

Testing the buffet

Aren’t I a handsome bird?

CHATTING AT THE FEEDER – Marilyn Armstrong

The one bird we are never short of around here are woodpeckers. We have at least five kinds. Only three of them come to the feeders: the little Downy Woodpecker, his big brother, the Hairy Woodpecker, and the Red-Bellied Woodpecker. The Red-Belly is the biggest of the bunch, but by physical size, the Blue Jay is a bigger bird.

I never realized what large birds Blue Jays are until I saw how big they are compared to the rest of our birds. Not, of course, counting the really big woodpecker who I see in the distance once in a while and the hawks and eagles.

Anyway, when the Blue Jay drops by for a meal, the other birds say “Yes sir, Mr. Jay,” and flutter off. Today, while big Mr. Jay was enjoying a little dinner, the Red-Belly decided to come by for a snack too. The Blue Jay is bigger, but other birds just don’t mess with the woodpeckers. Those birds have long beaks and hard heads and they are always in a grumpy mood. I think that’s from pounding their heads into oak trees all day long.

This is a series of pictures I got from the rather amusing event.

Blue is already there when the Red-Bellied Woodpecker arrives.

“Can we talk about this?” asks Mr. Jay.

“I don’t think so. How about you leave?” says Woody.

“This is MY feeder,” says Woody. “Take a flyer.”

“Okay, then. I’ll be flying a bit. See you around the woods,” says Jay.

The Red-Belly hung around for a while, it being dinner time. And when he was done, the Blue Jay came back and had his dinner too.  All was well but for some flurrying of feathers. As go the birds, so goes the world.

A SUNDAY LOOK AT THE INDOOR GARDEN – Marilyn Armstrong

An Indoor Garden – 11-3-2019

Taking pictures of birds today, I stopped and took some pictures of my indoor garden. The purple orchids are finally falling, but there are new shoots that I hope will replace them. And there are a lot of shoots on the other orchid too.

November and I bet there will be buds on the Christmas cacti soon. They sure do look healthy. Maybe too healthy. It’s time to water them less often I think.

A vertical look at my indoor garden

And then, this is what our woods looks like today. You can see how the oaks are all bronze. This is the month of the golden woods.

Downy Woodpecker in golden woods

BEFORE THE WINDS BLOW THE CREATURES MUST EAT – Marilyn Armstrong

There’s a story to go with these pictures. It’s one of my “Is my mind really going? Should I be taking something or stop taking something?”

I got lucky. I had the camera, I got a nearly perfect focus on the birds, the squirrel and then the chipmunk showed up too. It was the last golden leaves of Autumn. I took more than 100 pictures which I rarely do in the house.

This was a really busy day. I was running up and down to see how the contractor was doing and all three dogs were barking like mad.

And a Downy Woodpecker

Owen was coming in and out, bringing his stuff back. And my stairlift goes down ONE flight. I have to haul ass on the other stairs … and I’m off my pain meds because my body needs a break or at least, it sure feels like a break.

Looking for a few seeds?

Oh, look! I found a few seeds!

In the middle of this, there were all these creatures on the deck and I had a camera. They were incredibly cute and for once, I got the focus just about perfect — most of the time, anyway.

The Tufted Titmouse wants some food, too …

It’s all about the seeds. Really.

I thought about putting this post up later in the week, but it seemed so “now-ish” what with the storm coming and all the leaves coming down tonight.

Here is the story.

I took all these pictures and I did what I do … more to the point, I did what I thought I always do. I took the chip out of the camera and stuck it in the card reader in my computer. Then I watered all the plants (I’ve been intending to do it for a week), moved some money so I could pay the contractor, realized I’d run out of checks, realized I still had checks from when I first opened this account but I had to find them. (I did.)

I swear this squirrel was attached to the feeder from first thing in the morning until after dark. He NEVER stopped eating.

Somewhere in this process, I lost track of the chip with the pictures. I looked through every chip I own. I checked to make sure I really did take the chip out of the big Olympus.

Finally, my last hope, I looked in my mini Leica — which is the one I used to take pictures of the doors and the contractor — and there was the chip. Apparently, I pulled the chip out of the reader and stuck it in the other camera. I have no memory of doing it, but obviously, I did.

I keep saying miracles happen. I consider this to be one of them.

THE GOLDFINCH CAME HOME! – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s not the big flock I had last year, but three Goldfinch showed up today and hung around long enough for me to get their pictures. They were the stars of last winter’s bird portraits. They are so awfully cute.

Welcome home American Goldfinch

We also had a visitor I haven’t seen in years. It was a baby Chipmunk! We used to have hordes of Chipmunks chittering at us as they tried to take over the driveway. Then the bobcat showed up and he ate them. All of them. This is the first Chipmunk I’ve seen in at least five years. He was so little!

What a cute pair!

A Titmouse and his little pal

Hunting, I guess, for seeds left on the deck. For some reason, I didn’t take his pictures. I was so bedazzled just seeing him on the deck. I even had time to call Garry over to see him too, so I certainly could have taken his picture, but I was having so much fun watching her skitter around the deck looking for seeds.

A better version of a flying … wren?

The birds are coming back. Slowly. The Mourning Doves are still missing, but maybe they are just being shy. They are also a bit big for these feeders. They liked picking seeds from the deck. They are flat feeders.

On a positive note, we have lots of joyously singing Carolina Wrens.

Fair Lady Cardinal

Also, I saw, but he was gone before I could get the picture, a full red-headed woodpecker. Not the big one who looks like Woody. This one looks just like the Red-Bellied Woodpecker, but his entire head is completely red. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen one outside a bird book.

Sometimes, it’s good to live in the woods.